Her collection began as a fortunate accident. Sandy Machado, a 29-year-old graphic and Web designer from Brookline, stumbled into a hole-in-the wall shop (like any good collector, she doesn't want to divulge the name) and found about 200 greeting cards from the 1940s to the 1960s.
From there, it snowballed. There were more cards, and then there were vintage egg cups, ceramic owls, needlepoint portraits, and typewriters. Machado found herself collecting all manner of midcentury bric-a-brac until her apartment started bursting. Her next move was obvious: She started selling on Etsy. She is now one of Etsy's top 15 vintage sellers, and her business of selling everything from 1960s wrapping paper to E.T. bubble gum trading cards (still in the package with the gum, of course), is so brisk that she is contemplating opening her own retail website.
Here are a few of the things that she's learned since she started selling her flea market finds on Etsy (you can find her at www.bostonbaglady
People love vintage: "Once I started selling on Etsy, it immediately took off. I had sales my first day, there was never a slow period. There's a great fan base for these things and there are regular orders from the UK, Japan, and Australia."
The best places to shop for vintage goods are not in Boston: "I find that there's not that much in the city, and what's here is pretty picked over. The suburbs are where I go. I do a lot of thrifting on the South Shore. I go to a lot of yard sales. That's where you can score the best stuff for super cheap. I go to flea markets like Reitta in Hubbardston and Todd Farm in Rowley. The toughest part about these is that they're far from the city — and you have to get up very early."
The fun is in the hunt: "The thrill of finding the item is just as special as the item itself. I've always been a bit of a curious person, always investigating and exploring. This world of finding unique items in otherwise garbage or junk has always been interesting to me. Being able to preserve them or give them new life is what makes me happy. I also get a big kick out of finding items from the 1930s or 1940s that have not been used and are in near-mint condition. It just blows my mind that items so old can still exist in that condition."
Egg cups look good, even without eggs: "I don't remember when I got my first egg cup. I picked it up at a yard sale and thought 'Oh, this is cool.' I'd never seen an egg cup, I'd never used an egg cup, I don't even really like eggs. Slowly I started seeing them here and there. I kept collecting them, and I ended up with more than 100. I have a very unique collection in that I only collect the ones that are anthropomorphic. I brought them to 'Antiques Roadshow' a few weeks ago to get them appraised. I was told that my collection was worth pretty much what I paid for it. It's around $2,000."
A home can also be a museum: "When people come over, I don't even give them a tour. I just let them wander around for 25 minutes to examine things. When they're done looking at things, I get inundated with questions. People are very curious because they never have seen a lot of these things before. I wish I was a carpenter and had the ability to put up more shelves. I buy so much that I have boxes of these things and I'd love to be able to display it."
Selling retro products can add years to your life: "People who order from my site are always surprised to find out how young I am. They must think that I've been hoarding these things in my attic for years, and now I'm suddenly cleaning them out."
You can get very attached to objects that you love: "If my house ever caught on fire and I had to pick one thing to save, I don't know what I'd pick. I wouldn't be able to handle losing these things. They become an important part of your life."
Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com.